Each offseason, MiLB.com goes position by position across each organization and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in each farm system. Next up in our 2023 Organization All-Stars series are the Washington Nationals.
2023 organization summary:
Triple-A Rochester: 66-80
Double-A Harrisburg: 59-77
High-A Wilmington: 55-75
Single-A Fredericksburg: 65-63
FCL Nationals: 24-25
DSL Nationals: 11-39
Overall record: 280-359 (29th among MLB organizations)
Midseason Farm System Rankings: 8
2023 Nationals Organization All-Stars
C: Drew Millas (WSH No. 22)
AA/AAA: .291/.390/.442, 83 G, 7 HR, 43 RBI, 40 R, 42 BB, 6 SB
Millas increased his numbers in almost every statistical category from 2022 to '23. The 2019 seventh-round pick posted a career high in OPS and delivered the first four-hit performance of his career on April 7, when he went 4-for-4 with a homer. Millas’ Minor League production led to a big league debut to finish the season, where over 11 games, he continued his success, posting an .839 OPS. Nationals vice president and assistant general manager of player development and administration Eddie Longosz emphasized Millas’ defensive ability as well:
"He really improved his receiving all year -- that was the big thing, continuing to be athletic and blocking the ball.”
1B: Travis Blankenhorn
AAA: .262/.360/.517, 108 G, 23 HR, 75 RBI, 67 R, 51 BB, 0 SB
The veteran infielder’s 23 jacks were second in the Nats' system behind James Wood and his OPS (.877) led the organization among qualified players. Blankenhorn, who played his first Minor League season in 2015, had a career year with Triple-A Rochester, posting career highs in home runs, OPS, RBIs and doubles. The 27-year-old's biggest power surge spanned from Aug. 3-13, when he socked six roundtrippers in eight games.
2B: Darren Baker (WSH No. 24)
ROK/A+/AAA: .284/.349/.349, 107 G, 3 HR, 44 RBI, 50 R, 43 BB, 21 SB
The son of longtime big league manager Dusty Baker, Darren excels at using his speed all over the diamond. The California native swiped 21 bases and legged out four triples, good for sixth in the system. He also boasted a .966 fielding percentage across 68 games at second base, and Longosz sees a super utility role potentially in Baker's future. The 2023 season marked Baker’s first taste of Triple-A ball, and he took the challenge in stride, tallying 110 hits in 99 games there. Baker also put together a 21-game hit streak which spanned three levels during the summer as he worked his way back from an IL stint.
SS: Jordy Barley
A+/AA/AAA: .239/.309/.359, 85 G, 5 HR, 22 RBI, 38 R, 31 SB
Barley let his legs do the talking in 2023, as he saw time across three levels. The Dominican Republic native’s 31 stolen bases marked the third straight season in which he has eclipsed 30 swipes. He saw a 52-point jump in OBP from last season and a decrease in strikeouts, despite facing tougher competition.
3B: Brady House (WSH No. 3, MLB No. 40)
A/A+/AA: .312/.365/.497, 88 G, 12 HR, 47 RBI, 52 R, 26 BB, 9 SB
In a farm system that is loaded with talent, House’s ability may have shown through more than anyone else in 2023. The 2021 first-round pick posted a career high in nearly every major category and led the system in batting average. House had multiple double-digit hitting streaks throughout the season, ending the year on a 10-game streak with six extra-base hits and four multihit performances. While House’s potential at the dish has never been in question, Longosz was impressed by “his transition from shortstop to third base; he worked all year on footwork and angles.”
OF: James Wood (WSH No. 2, MLB No. 7)
A+/AA: .262/.353/.520, 129 G, 26 HR, 91 RBI, 80 R, 65 BB, 18 SB
At 6-foot-6, 240 pounds and just 21 years old, Wood is the type of athlete that doesn’t come around often. His light-tower power and impressive speed project a five-tool player for years to come, and it showed in 2023. The outfielder -- acquired in the deal that sent Juan Soto to San Diego last summer -- led the system with 26 big flies, 91 RBIs and 62 XBH. He was also the only player to tally both 15 homers and 15 stolen bases. Longosz reiterated Wood's ability to be a five-tool guy for years to come:
“I don’t know what more to say, it’s just exciting.”
OF: Dylan Crews (WSH No. 1, MLB No. 4)
ROK/A/AA: .292/.377/.467, 35 G, 5 HR, 29 RBI, 26 R, 14 BB, 4 SB
The 2023 Golden Spikes Award winner only spent 35 games suited up as a member of the Nationals and yet that was plenty of time to etch his name into the top performers. In that short time, Crews amazed on a nearly nightly basis, delivering both a four- and five-hit performance in his first nine games, the latter of which featured two long balls off the bat of the LSU standout. Crews has the talent to stay in center field and the polished game to “move quickly through the organization," per Longosz.
OF: Jacob Young (WSH No. 29)
A+/AA/AAA: .305/.376/.418, 112 G, 6 HR, 58 RBI, 60 R, 42 BB, 39 SB
Prior to this season, Young had never played a game above Single-A. In 2023, he conquered High-A, Double-A, Triple-A and even had a stint in The Show. The former Florida Gator finished just behind House for the highest batting average in the system and swiped 39 bags while doing it. Young has always had lightning-fast speed, but this season his bat came alive as well. He finished second in the organization with 132 hits -- a career best – and focused on “doing damage on pitches in the zone.” Longosz sees Young as a sparkplug type player:
“His speed is game-changing. It was really exciting to get him to the Major League level.”
RHP: Jackson Rutledge (WSH No. 13)
AA/AAA: 8-4, 3.71 ERA, 119 IP, 106 K, 55 BB, .227 BAA, 1.27 WHIP
Serving up a steady diet of fastballs as his X handle @Jcheddar would suggest, Rutledge fanned over 100 batters for the first time in his pro career. Longosz also noted that Rutledge was able to work on his secondary pitches, with more differentiation between his curveball and slider, which was able to give him more options against left-handed hitters. He was also able to stay healthy for the entire season, leading to 23 Minor League starts and four starts in the bigs after getting promoted in September.
LHP: Andrew Alvarez
A+/AA: 7-7, 2.99 ERA, 129 1/3 IP, 116 K, 43 BB, .229 BAA, 1.17 WHIP
The recipient of the Nationals' Minor League Pitcher of the Year award, Alvarez added a curveball to his repertoire in 2023 and fanned the second-most batters in the organization. His season highlight came in the form of a hitless, eight-inning, 11-strikeout performance on Aug. 12. A 12th-round selection in 2021, the 6-foot-3 hurler has caught the eyes of management.
“He was outstanding all year long," Longosz said. "He has excellent pitchability.”
Alvarez also led qualifying Nationals Minor Leaguers in ERA and tied for the lead in innings pitched.
RP: Marquis Grissom Jr.
A: 4-2, 2.18 ERA, 41 1/3 IP, 39 K, 13 BB, .213 BAA, 1.11 WHIP
Longosz describes Grissom Jr. as a “fastball/changeup guy,” but in 2023, he started to lean on his slider a bit more. The right-hander led all Nats Minor Leaguers with 11 saves and punched out batters at an 8.49 K/9 clip. Lonogsz also mentioned that Grissom Jr. was “really good this year at inducing weak contact and attacking the zone out of the ‘pen.” His fastball velocity has increased drastically since last year, topping out at 96 mph -- a full mile and a half faster than last season.
Brendan Samson is a contributor to MiLB.com.